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Art Center's Richard Koshalek steps down

September 24, 2008 |  5:10 pm

Richard Koshalek Richard Koshalek has stepped down as president of Art Center College of Design, where he became a lame duck in June after trustees of the elite Pasadena school refused his request for a four-year contract extension. They also suspended fundraising and development for an expansion program Koshalek had championed, including a $50-million Frank Gehry-designed high-tech design center and library.

Art Center's board announced Wednesday that it had reached an agreement with Koshalek to let him depart now instead of serving until his contract expired in December 2009. Trustees are "moving swiftly" to decide on an interim president, chairman John Puerner said in a statement. Meanwhile, a presidential search committee headed by board member Robert Davidson that was impaneled over the summer will continue its work on finding a permanent successor.

Koshalek, 67, had been Art Center's president since 1999, hired with a mandate to raise money and spearhead expansion. Previously, he was director of L.A.'s Museum of Contemporary Art.

His exit at Art Center was precipitated by student protests and petitions following the sudden departure in May of Nate Young, the college's chief academic officer. Students were concerned about tuition hikes at an institution where an undergraduate degree costs more than $117,000.

Some of Koshalek's critics among students and alumni complained that construction projects, along with design conferences and other initiatives to boost Art Center's profile, had taken precedence over education programs and efforts to raise scholarship money to ease the tuition for a student body of about 1,500.

"We honor Richard's request to leave early and want to thank him for the hard work and dedication he has shown over the past nine years," Puerner said.

Koshalek said that "throughout its history, Art Center has been a leader in art and design education, and I have no doubt that this will continue to be the case well into the future."

-- Mike Boehm

Photo by Wally Skalij /Los Angeles Times